When the Denver Broncos host the Houston Texans on Sunday, the game is going to have a reunion feel to it. The Texans head coach is, Gary Kubiak who played and coached for the Broncos in the 1980’s and 90’s. Kubiak was a rookie the same season as John Elway, and served as his backup for nine seasons. He didn’t play a lot but when he did, he almost always played well.
There are two games that come to mind in particular, starting with a Monday night game versus the Washington Redskins. Elway got sick during the day after eating at the White House (insert joke here) and was unable to play. Kubiak played a solid game facing a good Redskins team and led the Broncos to a big 14-10 road win. Kubiak’s final game of his career was in the AFC Championship Game in January of 1991 versus the Buffalo Bills.
Elway was injured in the fourth quarter and Kubiak entered with the Broncos trailing 10-0. Kubiak led the Broncos to a late touchdown to close the gap to 10-7 and following a successful onside kick, had a chance to win the football game. The Broncos were moving very well and had it not been for a fumble by Steve Sewell, Kubiak may have led the Broncos to the game-winning touchdown.
Kubiak then moved into coaching where he has been successful at every stop, including as the offensive coordinator with the Broncos from the 1995 to 2006. During those years, the Broncos were one of the best offensive teams in the NFL and won two Super Bowls during that period. Kubiak is credited with helping to develop the zone running scheme of the Broncos that he has now implemented with the Texans.
It was also with the Broncos that Kubiak first earned his reputation as a coach who is great with quarterbacks. Jake Plummer will never be confused with Elway but under the coaching of Kubiak, Plummer turned in some great seasons and led the Broncos to the AFC Championship Game following the 2005 season. As soon as Kubiak left to take the job with the Texans, Plummer’s play regressed and he was soon replaced by Jay Cutler. Kubiak comes back to Denver as the enemy for one day but he is always going to have a place in the hearts of Denver Broncos’ fans.
In addition to Kubiak, Sunday also marks the return of Wade Phillips and Rick Denninson. Phillips was the Broncos defensive coordinator from 1989 to 1992, before his brief two year stint as the Broncos head coach in 1993 and 1994. The head coaching thing did not work out in Denver but in 1989, Phillips turned around a defense that was awful in 1988. The Broncos led the NFL in points against in 1989 and was a big factor in the Broncos returning to the Super Bowl that season. Phillips is now doing the same thing for the Texans, who bring a great defense into Denver on Sunday.
Denninson played linebacker for the Broncos through the 1980’s and also served as an assistant coach under Mike Shanahan. He was also a strong candidate for the head coaching job with the Broncos when John Fox was hired. Had it not been for an experienced coach like Fox becoming available, Denninson probably would have been on the Broncos sideline this Sunday.
The game between the Denver Broncos and the Houston Texans is interesting for a lot of reasons, but there certainly will be a reunion feel on Sunday afternoon.
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